University of Sussex
Davies, Paul Fisher. Volume 1.pdf (8.03 MB)

Making meanings with comics : a functional approach to graphic narrative

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posted on 2023-06-06, 08:22 authored by Paul Fisher Davies
This thesis proposes that, viewed at the appropriate level of abstraction, pictures can do the work that language does; and a framework that describes the functions served by both will usefully enable discussion of graphic narrative. In the thesis, I outline such a framework, based largely on the work of Michael Halliday, drawing also on the pragmatics of Paul Grice, the Text World Theory of Paul Werth and Joanna Gavins, and ideas from art theory, psychology and narratology. This brings a complete Hallidayan framework of multimodality to comics scholarship for the first time, and extends that tradition of multimodal linguistics to graphic narrative. I illustrate and apply this framework using a range of graphic narrative, drawn largely from Anglo-American and European traditions, but intended to be useful across the full spectrum of work we recognise as ‘comics’ across cultural and historical productive contexts. The aim is to develop an approach based in linguistics which is appropriate and adequate to account for what we do when we use ‘comics’ to communicate with one another: incorporating the construction and organisation of pictorial images into the sorts of discourses that have otherwise been pursued with words. I present a range of approaches to describing the meaning-making resources of graphic narrative structured around Halliday’s three metafunctions of language: the ideational, accounting for ways in which comics represent experience; the interpersonal, accounting both for ways in which comics mediate interactions with readers, and incorporate personal judgements into the text; and the textual, accounting for the information structure of the comics text and points of cohesive connection. I also explore the logical structures available to comics, emphasising the hypotactic, nested nature of graphic narratives, over and above their sequentiality.


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  • English Theses

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  • doctoral

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  • eng


University of Sussex

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